AUSTRIAN VS. CHICAGO ECONOMISTS: RESPONSE TO THE 2008 FINANCIAL CRISIS

By Mark Skousen
Updated in 2019

 “Blessed paper credit! Last and best supply!
That lends corruption lighter wings to fly.”

–Alexander Pope

AUSTRIAN

Since I wrote “Vienna and Chicago, Friends or Foes?” in 2005, we’ve suffered another monetary crisis, this one so serious that it undermined the very foundation of our monetary and economic system and is known as the “Great Recession.”

How do the Austrian and Chicago economists differ when it comes to answer these questions:  What caused the financial crisis of 2007-09? What is the best way out of the crisis and Great Recession? Let’s first start with the Chicago school, and Milton Friedman’s famous article, “Why the American Economy is Depression-Proof.”

Is the US Economy Depression-Proof?

 In late 2009, I was in Stockholm, Sweden, for the Mont Pelerin Society meetings, where 300 top experts gathered from around the world. At this meeting, I organized a special ad hoc session reassessing Milton Friedman’s famous lecture “Why the American Economy is Depression-Proof.”[1]  Friedman gave this optimistic lecture in Sweden in 1954, at a time when some prominent economists and financial advisors were predicting another crash on Wall Street and a collapse in the economy. A little over 50 years later, in the face of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, everyone at the meeting wanted to know if Friedman, one of the founders of the international society, would change his mind. Nobody knows for sure, since Friedman died in late 2006, before the crisis started. I do know that until his death, he always defended his bold prediction. From 1954 until his death in 2006, the United States suffered numerous contractions in the economy, an S&L crisis, a major terrorist attack, and even a few stock market crashes, and still it avoided the “big one,” a massive 1930s’s style Depression characterized by an unemployment rate of 15% or more (Friedman’s definition of a depression).

In his lecture, Friedman pointed to four major institutional changes to keep another Great Depression was happening:  federal bank deposit insurance; abandonment of the international gold standard; the growth in the size of government, including welfare payments, unemployment insurance, and other “built-in” stabilizers; and most importantly, the Federal Reserve’s determination to avoid a monetary collapse at all costs. Because the public and officials are petrified by the possibility of another depression, Friedman predicted that any signs of trouble would lead the Federal Reserve to take “drastic action” and shift “rapidly and completely to an easy money policy.” Consequently, according to Friedman, rising inflation would be far more of a threat to post-war America than another Great Depression.

So far so good. But now, following the financial crisis of 2008, I suspect Friedman would be forced to revise his views if he were alive. Admittedly, Friedman is still technically correct. There was no Great Depression in 2008-09, that is, according to government statistics. The official unemployment rate rose to 10% in 2009, far below the 15% rate necessary to qualify as a “depression.”

However, it’s important to note that the official unemployment rate does not include discouraged workers who have stopped looking, and those numbers apparently are in the millions. According to economist John Williams, editor of Shadow Statistics, if you count discouraged workers, the real unemployment rate exceeds 20%. See the chart below.

AUSTRIANSource:  www.shadowstats.com

The Fed and the Federal government appear to have averted disaster once again, at least in the short term. Yet they were able to do so only by putting millions on unemployment insurance and welfare (over 47 millions on food stamps and Medicaid), taking on unprecedented powers, and adding trillions of dollars in debt that so weaken the government and the public’s trust in its financial capacity to avoid future economic difficulties, and could lead to runaway inflation or a deflationary collapse.

Clearly, bank failures are not a thing of the past, and there have been runs on commercial banks and other financial institutions (money market funds), although Friedman is right that most banks are now either taken over by the FDIC or the Treasury, or forced to merger with a bigger, safer bank. Still, major institutions like Bank of America and Citibank would not have survived had it not been for government bailouts.

Friedman also stated in his lecture, “There has been no major depression that has not been associated with and accompanied by a monetary collapse….Monetary contraction or collapse is an essential conditioning factor for the occurrence of a major depression.”

Yet a monetary expansion is no guarantee that a crisis can be avoided. In fact, the U. S. came awfully close to an economic collapse in late 2008 without any monetary contraction. During 2008, the money supply (M2) grew every month and 9% for the year. Clearly, monetary contraction isn’t the only source of instability in the economy. Economic disaster can also be precipitated by easy money, irresponsible banking practices, or perverse tax and regulatory policies. One of the weaknesses of the Friedman Chicago school approach is their belief that inflationary asset bubbles only have micro effects on the economy and can be defused without having a debilitating macroeconomic impact. The real-estate crisis of 2007-09 demonstrated otherwise, and that’s why most Chicago economists failed to predict

The Great Contraction, Updated

Interestingly, Friedman’s famous chapter, “The Great Contraction, 1929-1933,” taken from his magnum opus, A Monetary History of the United States, 1869-1960 (Princeton University Press, 1963), was reprinted in 2007, with a new introduction by his co-author, Anna J. Schwartz. The short book had long been out of print, and was brought back just before the real estate crisis started and after Milton Friedman died. It was perfect timing as we were about to witness the worst economic debacle since the Great Depression. Yet Professor Schwartz was oblivious to any evidence of a collapse. She wrote, “As the federal funds rate moves in a low and narrow range in response to low and stable inflation, volatility of the business cycle and real economy has moderated.”[2]

 

The Austrians Response

The Austrian economists, on the other hand, knew full well that the Fed’s artificial low interest rate policy and the government’s meddling with banks and mortgage companies to encourage excessive home ownership was about to blow up in their faces. Austrian financial economists, such as Peter Schiff, Bert Dohmen, and Fred Foldvary, anticipated the crisis, and said so in 2007 at FreedomFest. That is why I concluded “Advantage, Vienna” in the debate between the Austrian and Chicago schools on the business cycle (see chapter 6 of “Vienna and Chicago”).

Based on the Mises-Hayek theory of the business cycle, the Austrian economists proposed their fundamental thesis that monetary inflation is never neutral, and that asset bubbles cause unsustainable structural imbalances on a macro level. Inflation has negative unintended consequences. The Austrians knew that eventually a collapse was inevitable. As Ludwig von Mises once said, “We have outlived the short-run and are suffering from the long-run consequences of [inflationary] policies.”

At the end of our special session, I asked members of the Mont Pelerin Society how many of them still agreed with Friedman, that the American economy is “depression proof.” Only a handful raised their hands, and they were all American economists. The rest of the crowd, mostly from abroad, pointed out that most other countries did not suffer a banking crisis. The financial crisis was largely Anglo-American-induced. They agreed that until the United States adopts a stable monetary and banking system, it can no longer be considered depression-proof.

 

Government Response to the Crisis

What should the government do in response to the crisis, if anything? The United States and many other countries followed the standard Keynesian prescription — the government ran massive deficits and the central banks cut interest rates. In short, they engaged in easy money at all levels:  injecting liquidity and adopting activist fiscal and monetary policy.

The 2007 reprint of “The Great Contraction” published Fed chairman Ben Bernanke’s remarks at a 2002 conference in Chicago honoring Milton Friedman on his 90th birthday. At the end, he said, “I would like to say to Milton and Anna:  Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.”[3]  Bernanke said he had learned the Friedman lesson well. The Fed would not allow the banking system to collapse and cause another Great Depression. Indeed, he lived up to his word during the 2008 financial crisis in injecting massive amounts of liquidity (fiat money).

Unfortunately, Bernanke failed to recognize the other lesson found in Friedman’s scholarly works:  activist fiscal policy doesn’t work and is unnecessary. In Friedman’s testing of Keynesian policy prescription, he found that the deficit spending multiplier was extremely low, not 4 or 5 as taught in the textbooks, but 0 to 1, in its impact on the economy. Recently Robert Barro (Harvard) concluded it was close to 0, no positive impact at all. The increase in government spending was largely offset by private spending declining (crowding out).

Friedman and the Chicago economists argued that the money multiplier resulting from the Fed buying government bonds and injecting liquidity into the banking system was much higher, as much as 3 or 4. Accordingly, Friedman advocated that the Fed should be the primary source of new stimulus to get the economy going again, and fiscal policy should remain stable.

In short, it was unnecessary and maybe even downright harmful for Ben Bernanke to have called Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in September 2008, and encourage the Congress to get involved. According to this view, the trillion dollar deficits and TARP monies were completely unnecessary. Monetary policy could do all the heavy lifting. After TARP became law, I asked Glenn Hubbard, former president of the Council for Economic Policy under Bush and the dean of Columbia Business School, if the Fed had all the emergency powers necessary to buy any asset — Treasuries, mortgages, even stocks — to avert a meltdown, and he said emphatically, “Yes.” It was not necessary to get Congress involved.

 

Did the Fed Cause the Real Estate Bubble?

After the financial crisis, Ben Bernanke refused to take responsibility for the collapse—or the real estate bubble. He noted that the real estate boom was a worldwide phenomenon, ignoring the fact that the dollar is a world currency. But what about the Federal Reserve’s responsibility to be the chief banking regulator? I was in attendance in January 2007, when Bernanke presented a luncheon paper on “Bank Regulation,” in which he used the words “crisis” and “panic” 34 times. Surely Bernanke knew about the irresponsible “subprime” and “no doc” loans commercial and mortgage bankers were involved in. Shouldn’t Bernanke have had the “courage to act” (to use the title of his memoirs) to stop this nonsense when he became Fed chairman; and shouldn’t he have resigned in disgrace for allowing it to happen?

 

The Austrian Response: “Do Nothing”? 

The most extreme response to the financial crisis is the recommendation by some Austrian economists to “do nothing,” that is, for the government to let the malinvestments collapse on their own weight. Libertarian economist Jeffrey Miron, who teaches at Harvard, wrote an article entitled “The Case for Doing Nothing,” for Reason magazine in 2009. According to these economists, government should not increase spending (the Keynesian prescription) nor should the Fed engage in easy money and inject liquidity (the Monetarist solution)—both policies might make matters worse. If anything, the government should retrench like everyone else. This was known as the classical economic policy. Thomas E. Woods, Jr., Austrian economist with the Mises Institute, wrote about the 1920-21 period in American history as an example:

“The conventional wisdom holds that in the absence of government countercyclical policy, whether fiscal or monetary (or both), we cannot expect economic recovery — at least, not without an intolerably long delay. Yet the very opposite policies were followed during the depression of 1920–1921, and recovery was in fact not long in coming. The economic situation in 1920 was grim. By that year unemployment had jumped from 4 percent to nearly 12 percent, and GNP declined 17 percent. No wonder, then, that Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover — falsely characterized as a supporter of laissez-faire economics — urged President Harding to consider an array of interventions to turn the economy around. Hoover was ignored. Instead of “fiscal stimulus,” Harding cut the government’s budget nearly in half between 1920 and 1922. The rest of Harding’s approach was equally laissez-faire. Tax rates were slashed for all income groups. The national debt was reduced by one-third. The Federal Reserve’s activity, moreover, was hardly noticeable. As one economic historian puts it, ‘Despite the severity of the contraction, the Fed did not move to use its powers to turn the money supply around and fight the contraction.’ By the late summer of 1921, signs of recovery were already visible. The following year, unemployment was back down to 6.7 percent and it was only 2.4 percent by 1923.”[4]

It takes a great deal of faith in capitalism to adopt this laissez faire policy in today’s world.

 

How to Order “Vienna and Chicago”

I refer to my book, “Vienna and Chicago, Friends or Foes?” as the Clash of the Titans. You can read more about it at http://mskousen.com/?s=vienna+and+chicago

It’s been endorsed by both sides – by Milton Friedman (Chicago school) and Roger Garrison (Austrian school). Supply side economist Art Laffer wrote me, “I don’t know whether I should love you or hate book. Your book was so good I spent half a day plus avoiding what I supposed to do in order to read it. It’s great!”

To order, go to www.skousenbooks.com. The price is US$20, and I pay the postage if mailed inside the US. (Add $30 for airmail shipment outside the US.) Or call Harold at Ensign Publishing, 1-866-254-2057.


[1] Milton Friedman, “Why the American Economy is Depression-Proof,” lecture delivered in Stockholm in April, 1954, and reprinted in Dollars and Deficits (Prentice-Hall, 1658), pp. 72-96. Friedman’s controversial lecture is still not available online, although my response, “Why the U. S. Economy is Not Depression-Proof” is:  http://mises.org/journals/rae/pdf/RAE3_1_5.pdf

[2] Anna Jacobson Schwartz, “New Preface,” The Great Contraction, 1929-1933 (Princeton University Press, 2007), p. xi.

[3] Ben S. Bernanke, “Remarks,” The Great Depression, 1929-1933, p. 247.

[4] Thomas E. Woods, Jr., “The Forgotten Depression of 1920” (Mises Institute, November 27, 2009):  http://mises.org/daily/3788

FESTSCHRIFT HONORING PROF. ROGER GARRISON PUBLISHED

By Mark Skousen

I’m pleased to announce that the Journal of Private Enterprise has issued its latest volume (Winter 2015 issue) in honor of Roger Garrison, long-time friend and professor of economics at Auburn University:  http://journal.apee.org/index.php/Category:Winter_2015 

garrisonsep2012

Roger Garrison visiting Mark Skousen at his home in New York (with the Totem Pole of Economics in the background).

The festschrift, based on a session I organized at last year’s Association of Private Enterprise Education (APEE) meetings, contains four articles:

Robert F. Mulligan, “Roger W. Garrison and the Integration of Austrian and Mainstream Macroeconomics.” 

Adrian Ravier and Nicolas Cachanosky, “Fiscal Policy in Capital-Based Macroeconomics with Idle Resources” 

Mark Skousen, “Linking Austrian and Keynesian Economics:  A Variation of a Theme” (this is my first refereed paper on Gross Output, the new national statistic the federal government is now publishing quarterly along with GDP). 

Peter Boettke and Candela Rosolino, “Finding the ‘Middle Ground’ in Academia:  Important Lessons from Roger Garrison in Austrian Economics.”

Announcing the New Third Edition of “The Structure of Production”

Federal Government Introduces a New Macro Statistic: A Triumph in Supply-side “Austrian” Economics and Say’s Law

Mark Skousen, The Structure of Production. New York University Press. Third revised edition, 2015, 402 pages. $26 paperback. Available on Kindle.

To buy the book: NYU, Amazon
Quarterly data for Gross Output can be found at the BEA site here.
For Skousen’s latest quarterly report on GO, see this.

From the cover:

SoP3coverweb2In 2014, the U. S. government adopted a new quarterly statistic called gross output (GO), the most significance advance in national income accounting since gross domestic product (GDP) was developed in the 1940s. The announcement comes as a triumph for Mark Skousen, who advocated GO twenty-five years ago as an essential macroeconomic tool and a better way to measure the economy and the business cycle. Now it has become an official statistic issued quarterly by the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the U. S. Department of Commerce.

Quarterly data for Gross Output can be found at the BEA site here.

For Skousen’s latest quarterly report on GO, see this.

Since the announcement, Gross Output has been the subject of editorials in the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and other financial publications, analyzed in the Eastern Economic Journal, and is now being included in leading economics textbooks, such as Roger Leroy Miller’s new 18th edition of Economics Today. Economists are now producing GO data for other countries, including the UK and Argentina.

In this third printing of Structure of Production, Skousen shows why GO is a more accurate and comprehensive measure of the economy because it includes business-to-business (B2B) transactions that move the supply chain along to final use. (GDP measures the value of finished goods and services only, and omits most B2B activity.) GO is an attempt to measure spending at all stages of production.

As Dale Jorgenson, Steve Landefeld, and William Nordhaus conclude in “A New Architecture for the U. S. National Accounts,” “Gross output [GO] is the natural measure of the production sector, while net output [GDP] is appropriate as a measure of welfare. Both are required in a complete system of accounts.”

Skousen states, “Gross Output fills in a big piece of the macroeconomic puzzle. It establishes the proper balance between production and consumption, between the ‘make’ and the ‘use’ economy, between aggregate supply and aggregate demand. I make the case that GO and GDP complement each other as macroeconomic tools and that both should play a vital role in national accounting statistics, much like top line and bottom line accounting are employed to providing a complete picture of quarterly earnings reports of publicly-traded companies.”

He concludes, “Because GO attempts to measure all stages of production (known as Hayek’s triangle), it is a monumental triumph in supply-side ‘Austrian’ economics and Say’s law.”

Using GO, Skousen demonstrates that consumer spending does not account for two-thirds of the economy, as is often reported in the financial media, but is really only 30-40% of total economic activity. Business spending (B2B) is over 50% of the economy, and thus is far larger and more important than consumer spending, more consistent with economic growth theory, and a better measure of the business cycle. (See chart below.)

GO1stQtr2015-B

About the Author

MARK SKOUSEN is a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University in California. He has taught economics and finance at Columbia Business School, and is a former economic analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency. He received his Ph. D. in economics at George Washington University (1977). He is the editor-in-chief of the investment newsletter Forecasts & Strategies, and author of several books, including The Making of Modern Economics.

Reviews

“Now, it’s official. With Gross Output (GO), the U.S. government will provide official data on the supply side of the economy and its structure. How did this counter revolution come about? There have been many counter revolutionaries, but one stands out: Mark Skousen of Chapman University. Skousen’s book The Structure of Production, which was first published in 1990, backed his advocacy with heavy artillery. Indeed, it is Skousen who is, in part, responsible for the government’s move to provide a clearer, more comprehensive picture of the economy, with GO.” — Steve H. Hanke, Johns Hopkins University (2014)

“The development of Gross Output is a good idea and a better measure [of economic activity] than GDP.” — David Colander, Eastern Economic Journal (2014)

“This is a great leap forward in national accounting. Gross Output, long advocated by Mark Skousen, will have a profound and manifestly positive impact on economic policy.” –Steve Forbes, Forbes magazine (2014)

“Skousen’s Structure of Production should be a required text at our leading universities.” (referring to second edition) –John O. Whitney, Emeritus Professor in Management Practice, Columbia University

“Monumental. I’ve read it twice!” (referring to first edition, published in 1990) — Peter F. Drucker, Clermont Graduate University

“I am enormously impressed with the care and integrity which Skousen has accomplished his work.” — Israel Kirzner, New York University

For Interviews or Lectures

To interview Dr. Mark Skousen or arrange a lecture, contact him at mskousen@chapman.edu, or Valerie Durham, Media Relations, 410-570-0535, or email her at vdurham@skousenpub.com.

# # #

U.S. Economy Doing Better Than Expected

U. S. ECONOMIC ACTIVITY HOLDS STEADY IN 1ST QUARTER 2014

Washington, DC —  Gross Output, a broader measure of  U. S. economic activity published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, held steady at $30,210.6 billion in the first quarter of 2014.

“The GO data demonstrates that the economy is not as bad off as GDP figures initially suggested,” stated Mark Skousen, editor of Forecasts & Strategies and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University, who champions Gross Output as a more comprehensive measure of economic activity.   He introduced Gross Output as a macroeconomic tool in his work The Structure of Production (New York University Press, 1990).  Now the BEA publishes GO on a quarterly basis in its “GDP by Industry” data.

The GO data was released by the BEA on Friday, July 25, 2014:  http://www.bea.gov/iTable/iTable.cfm?ReqID=51&step=1#reqid=51&step=51&isuri=1&5114=q&5102=15 [Read more…]

Marx Madness is Back

“Capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine democratic societies.” — Thomas Piketty, “Capital in the 21st Century” (2014)

The Economist magazine rightly called French professor Thomas Piketty the new Marx, although a watered down Marx. His bestseller (rated #1 on Amazon and the New York Times) is a thick volume with the same title as KCapital in the Twenty-First Centuryarl Marx’s 1867 magnum opus, “Kapital.” The publisher, Harvard University Press, appropriately designed the book cover in red, the color of the socialist workers’ party.

Piketty cites Karl Marx more than any other economist, even more than Keynes. He barely mentions Adam Smith. Instead of the modern scientific name “economics,” he prefers the old term “political economy,” a favorite of radical professors. [Read more…]

Economist Makes Lead Story in the Wall Street Journal….Barron’s….and Forbes

I made the lead story in the Wednesday, April 23, 2014, edition of the Wall Street Journal.  The title:  “At Last, a Better Economic Measure.”  You can read it here:  http://on.wsj.com/PsdoLM

The editors of the WSJ don’t allow the author to see or approve the headline or subhead, but they nailed it perfect.  And I love the cartoon graphics!  It’s a perfect rendition of my four stage model of the economy.

Many readers captured the essence of my message.  As economic forecaster Jim Hagerbaumer of Florida wrote:  “Skousen is introducing a whole new species. This is one of the most important WSJ op-ed articles in years.”

I also wrote about Gross Output (GO) in the December 16, 2013, issue of Forbes.  Here’s the online version, with charts and response to critics:

My original article in Forbes Magazine (December 16, 2013):

Mark Skousen, Beyond GDP: Get Ready For A New Way To Measure The Economy, Forbes

http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2013/11/29/beyond-gdp-get-ready-for-a-new-way-to-measure-the-economy/

Additional Commentary by Steve Forbes:
Steve Forbes, New, Revolutionary Way To Measure The Economy Is Coming — Believe Me, This Is A Big Deal, Forbes

http://www.forbes.com/sites/steveforbes/2014/03/26/this-may-save-the-economoy-from-keynesians-and-spend-happy-pols/

Gross Output Includes B-to-B….GDP doesn’t [Read more…]

Steve Forbes Endorses My Gross Output Statistic

“Mark Skousen’s Gross Output statistic…will have a profound and manifestly positive impact on economic policy and politics.”  — Steve Forbes, Forbes magazine, April 14, 2014

The Bureau of Economic Analysis will start releasing Gross Output (GO) along with GDP every quarter starting on Friday, April 25.  I consider it a triumph in supply side “Austrian” economics.

I think Steve Forbes captures the importance of this new national statistic in his column in the April 14 edition of Forbes.

Most of the textbook writers are going to include GO in their next edition.  Sean Flynn, now the primary writer of the McConnell/Bruce textbook, is going to highlight it.

Here’s Steve’s commentary — New, Revolutionary Way To Measure The Economy Is Coming — Believe Me, This Is A Big Deal: by Steve Forbes  http://www.forbes.com/sites/steveforbes/2014/03/26/this-may-save-the-economoy-from-keynesians-and-spend-happy-pols/

Here’s my original article in Forbes — Beyond GDP Get Ready for a New Way to Measure the Economy: by Mark Skousen  http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2013/11/29/beyond-gdp-get-ready-for-a-new-way-to-measure-the-economy/

Here’s my op ed in the Wednesday, April 23 edition of the Wall Street JournalAt Last, A Better Economic Measure: by Mark Skousen http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303532704579483870616640230.html

 

Chapman Students Are Surprised by the Answer to My Environmental Question

In January, my wife and I had the opportunity to teach at Chapman University, where I am a Presidential Fellow for 2014.  She taught a class in poetry, and I taught “Modern Political Economy:  Who is Winning the Battle of Ideas?”  I used my textbook, “The Making of Modern Economics,” now in its 2nd edition.

One of today’s controversies is about pollution and the environment.  We talked about a recent address by U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who warned students in Indonesia that “global warming” is “the greatest challenge of our generation,” more than disease outbreaks, poverty, terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Then he demonized anyone who disagrees with him, calling critics of global warming “shoddy scientists and extreme ideologues.” You could say the same about Al Gore.  Kerry added, “We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact.”

Kerry is typical of the hysteria surrounding the issue of ecology and the environment. Students are being brainwashed into thinking the problem is getting worse and worse. Kerry and the extreme environmentalists blame any weather disaster, the cold snow in the Northeast or the drought in the West, to global warming.  You can’t argue with these fanatics.

I asked my students at Chapman University, “Has pollution declined or risen in the past 50 years in LA county?”  Over half thought pollution was worse.  The cold, hard fact is that pollution has been reduced sharply in LA county even as gasoline use has risen.  See this chart:

http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=pYBObTbuYbS9tM&tbnid=xwtv0ahLCtELQM:&ved=0CAUQjRw&url=http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2012/20120809_laairqualitystudy.html&ei=ht4EU5jyEKbb2QXRm4CoCg&bvm=bv.61535280,d.aWc&psig=AFQjCNGsuMz1HbLz7IT1IMCVqhIlch9HSA&ust=1392914426522327

The fact is that the average world temperature has been flat or declining for 17 straight years.  If you want to know the facts about global warming and pollution, read this column by Larry Bell in Forbes.com:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2013/08/21/the-new-york-times-global-warming-hysteria-ignores-17-years-of-flat-global-temperatures/

During the class, a journalist visited my class and gave this nice write up:  http://blogs.chapman.edu/happenings/2014/01/28/class-act-economics-comes-to-life-with-mark-skousen-teaching/

I will be returning to Chapman University on Wednesday, April 16, to give a public lecture as part of my Presidential Fellowship.

Students (each holding an American eagle silver dollar) join me in front of the Adam Smith statue at Chapman University.

A Personal Triumph 25 Years in the Making with Launch of New Macro Statistic

For the first time since World War II, the Federal government (Bureau of Economic Analysis) will begin publishing a new macro statistic Gross Output [GO] starting in spring 2014 at the same time it releases its quarterly GDP data.

Forbes.com article has just published my article on this new statistic “Beyond GDP“: http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2013/11/29/beyond-gdp-get-ready-for-a-new-way-to-measure-the-economy/

A shortened version will appear in the Dec. 16 issue of Forbes magazine (circulation over 1 million).

I’ve been advocating this new national statistic since writing The Structure of Production (NYU Press) in 1990. Now it’s finally happening. Steve Forbes calls it a “real breakthrough.”

Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal and Gene Epstein of Barron’s are looking into writing articles on GO.  So is The Economist.

Bill Nordhaus, professor at Yale University, writes, “Congratulations on the article and the work.  It has been a long slog to get the national accounts to introduce innovative measures, and Steve Landefeld [Director, BEA] has been a superstar in this respect…This will open up the potential for new insights into the behavior of the economy.”

GO goes a long way in providing the right balance in the production-consumption process that is missing in GDP data. As BEA Director Steve Landefeld and co-editors Dale Jorgenson and Bill Nordhaus state: “Gross output [GO] is the natural measure of the production sector, while net output [GDP] is appropriate as a measure of welfare. Both are required in a complete system of accounts.”

I think you’ll find the chart comparing GO and GDP of interest, how GO is consistently more volatile than GDP, and a better measure of the business cycle. (Click on the chart below to go directly to the article)

I’m excited — this is a personal triumph nearly 25 years in the making.

Most of the economics textbook writers are planning to include a section on GO in their next editions (McConnell, Parkin, Gwartney, Hubbard), and economic analysts are now starting to look at it.  In an email, Roger Leroy Miller, professor at University of Texas at Arlington, says that he has added a section on Gross Output for his 18th edition of Economics Today.  It is already part of my own Economic Logic textbook.

I hope you’ll check out the Forbes article, as well as Economic Logic and The Structure of Production for a more in-depth look at this important development.

Report from AEA Meetings in San Diego: The FED = Inflation

I returned early this year from a productive trip to San Diego for the American Economic Association (AEA) meetings, where I met with several top economists, including Nobel Prize winners. One of the most popular sessions was a panel on the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve. The most shocking graph was presented by Ken Rogoff, a Harvard economist.


As the graph indicates, there was virtually no inflation prior to 1913, when the Federal Reserve was created (other than wars, which caused temporary inflation) and we went off the classical gold standard. Rogoff noted that since the Fed was created, prices have skyrocketed 30-fold, or 3,000%! This data confirms Murray Rothbard’s contention that the Fed was created to remove the barriers to inflation, not to control it.

Despite the fact that the Fed engineered all of this inflation, caused the Great Depression and failed to regulate the mortgage banks prior to the 2008 crisis, all of the panelists gave high marks to the Fed! (You can bet that won’t be the case at our special panel on the 100th anniversary of the Fed at FreedomFest!)

Another telling sign was the fact that the sessions with super Keynesian Paul Krugman were standing room only, while monetarists including Nobel laureate Bob Lucas had a small turnout.

What does this situation bode for the future? If Krugman has his way, it means greater deficits, more inflation, and higher taxes.